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The race for governor is on

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — And the race is on. As predicted here a few days ago, narrowing the Republican gubernatorial race to two candidates  has meant they’re pulling out all the stops.

Both Allen Weh and Susana Martinez  surely had been doing internal polling to determine approximately how their campaigns were faring,

But a poll by Brian Sanderoff, the dean of New Mexico pollsters, can be trusted to present information second only to the actual election. Every state’s voters have their unique characteristics. Sanderhoff polls are designed to control for all those variables.

So when the Sanderoff poll showed Martinez and Weh in a statistical tie and miles ahead of the other three competitors, the war was on between the two leaders.

It took a long time. Some observers called it the longest truce ever. That is almost true. Former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson was known for running the cleanest campaigns ever.

Those who can remember back to the Ronald Reagan years probably recall his 11th commandment about never speaking ill of a Republican opponent. Consider that out the window now.

Both Weh and Martinez have invested too much effort and resources into getting where they are now. Both were holding fire until they could claim the other one started it.

As it turned out both kept edging toward the line with increasingly provocative tactics. Until it reached the point that both can claim the other one started it.

This may be the first time a political party has become involved in the opposing party’s primary election. For weeks rumors had floated that the state Democratic Party was taking sides in the GOP gubernatorial race.

The reason for taking sides was that Martinez would be the toughest of the five Republican candidates to beat. First, she would steal some of the women’s vote from Denish.

Secondly, Martinez would eat into the Hispanic vote that normally goes to Democratic candidates. Democrats are sure to have a Hispanic lieutenant governor candidate.

Two of the three Republican lieutenant governor candidates are Anglo. Democrats would like to see the Republican gubernatorial candidate be Anglo also.

Thirdly, Denish is from Albuquerque. A third of the votes come from there but the other two-thirds of the state don’t care much for the big city.

It is likely the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate will be from Albuquerque. All-Albuquerque tickets don’t sell well in the rest of the state.

Denish, however, always talks about herself as being from Hobbs. That’s where she grew up and lived until she finished high school over 40 years ago. And she’s never lost that Eastside drawl.

It is a clever political move. After mentioning last week that she is from Albuquerque, I was told I was wrong. She’s from Hobbs. If that is the impression of people from outside the Duke City, Denish has achieved her goal of being a country girl.

For these three reasons, Democrats feel Martinez would be tougher to beat than Weh. So three Democratic sheriffs, Greg Solano of Santa Fe County, Rene Rivera of Valencia County and Joe Mascarenas of Rio Arriba County, issued a news release alleging Martinez has broken her promise to always prosecute felony drunk driving cases.

Felony DWI consists of three or more instances. The Martinez camp quickly responded with a slew of statistics defending her prosecutorial record.

At the same time, the Weh camp came at Martinez with accusations of misspending public funds. So the Martinez campaign is having to fight off both Democrats and fellow Republicans.

Both may be a daily occurrence. It sounds like a big job for the Martinez campaign but might there be a silver lining?

   Shouldn’t Martinez be able to convince Republican voters they should nominate her because Democrats know she will be the toughest candidate to defeat in November?

Hold onto your seats. We’ll soon find out.

E-mail Jay Miller at insidethecapitol@hotmail.com.